What is a foodie without a sweet tooth? Well, I possess one because of my love of food. On the outside, just because there is a myriad of items on the plate to eat, sorry correction, plenty of things on the leaf to eat !! And a cherry on the top, I love Onam Sadya, aka the Kerala Meals, aka the Ella Sadya.
A leaf full of food is pure love.
It is cherishing for the excitement to see the men in mundu lined up with vessels of food, serving one after another item in swift speed on your leaf, sometimes just a spoon of it, and you wonder why the kanjoosi !! And then you dip your finger into each item, take a lick to see which is the best.
Ask for more servings, yet ensure you have enough space in the food pipe (stomach is already full) for the ADA pradhaman and parippu payasam.
It is bliss. Don't you agree? It is advisable to Sit and relax for five minutes before closing the leaf and washing your hands. Such is the love story between human beings and Onam Sadya. I can recall an event associated with this that I Want to share with you all !!
I once went to a wedding in Alleppey to have the Sadya. One for the sadya, two for Alleppey, and three for the Ambalapuzha pal payasam. It was a friend's friend's wedding, so I don't even know who it is, but I went.
It was an event in itself to brave the Malayalees in a wedding hall to have the sadya. If you know Tamil, I have written a blog on this adventure here. I have been planning to visit and have Aranmula Valla Sadya almost every year and have never successfully done it. It happens during the boat race time, and they serve around 50 dishes in the temple, but you need to book a slot and be lucky to get a token.
A normal sadya itself they serve is close to 20 dishes! Erissery, pulissery, olan, thoran, pachadi, avial, kalan, mezhukkupuratti, kootu, so many options! My favourite is inji puli and madhura curry.
Inji Puli, as the name says it is a simple combination of ginger, tamarind, and jaggery. Madhura curry is omg, and you have to have this. You might find it weird if I say it is a dish made of pineapple, banana, and grapes but not a fruit salad !! It also has coconut and tadka added to it. Once I asked the guy if he could leave the madhura curry vessel next to me. Between all the spicy and sour flavors, this cuts across with a mix of both notes along with sweetness.
Well, my love for it is obvious. And not to forget, Upperi. Another favourite is that I ask my Malayalee friends to get it for me fresh from Kerala. Regardless of my sweet tooth, I love this jaggery and slight ginger note coated banana chips over the normal salted one.
Onam Sadya aka Ella Sadya
My love for Kerala food has a long history !!
It started from childhood days, though, through a simple dish called Sabarimala Aravana Payasam.
The kheer is made of rice, jaggery, and lots of ghee, available only as an offering from the Sabarimala temple. If Thirupathi is meant for ladoos, then Sabarimala is known for its payasam. I think it says it all !! The taste is unique! The not-so-cooked rice, which still feels like raw rice in thick sticky jaggery and the fragrance of ghee on your fingers after! Ahh Haaa...
More so, you get it only during the Sabarimala season and only if some devotee visits the temple and brings you the prasadam. As a kid, I would dutifully drop into houses where Ayyappa pooja happens, and this pooja happens just before the devotees leave for the temple. And I would sit through the pooja only to remind the uncle at the end, "Swami enaku oru Dabba" !!
The devotees are addressed as God, and the prasadam comes in a small tin. It has been ages now since I had that yummy aravana payasam or, as I call it, the Arisi Nei payasam.
When I grew up, all I knew was the Malabar Parotta. Nothing else. That flaky layer, crispy yet soft to dip into Kurama and eat, was a favourite. Either I had it with the chicken kurma that my mom makes or the veg kurma that came along with the parotta. Parotta was tough to make at home, so it was mom's favourite every time we went to a restaurant.
Bengaluru marred my experience, and they gave me something called paratha when I innocently ordered parotta and was expecting a parotta.. ugh... But if you are from Bangalore and around Marathahalli, you cannot miss Maria's mess! .. I have a story for that too !!
A friend took me to this mess tucked between the lanes of Marathahalli. How many Kerala mess have popped around the corners, but Maria's mess was extraordinary!! After a long time, I had yummy parotta, egg curry, and beef. It was the first time I was introduced to parotta and erachi fry. Honestly, you need a gut of steel to grind maida parotta and beef !!
Kerala Malabar parotta
Kerala mess is a life saviour in Bangalore. Be it for me or, let's say, other bachelors. It is never a fine dining place that I have seen families occupying. Either us bachelors or the Malayalees dropping in to get parcels. Anyone who gives me unlimited food is God, and so are all these Kerala messes. They keep a bucket of fish curry on the table, dude. What more do you want?
For some time, my routine used to be to stop at one such mess and pick up a karimeen fry or aiyla fry, or avoli fry. Kerala karimeen fry is the delicious fry to have, that is, Pink perch fish.
If not the kilimeen, there is always the avoli, aka pomfret. And then, of late, they also started Pothichoru. What a lovely concept. It is full of Kerala meals with beef or omelet or fish fry parcelled together in a slightly steamed banana leaf. That's how they used to pack lunch to work. Such a melange of things when you open the parcel!
The latest introduction by Kerala mess is puttu biryani. What a lovely twist to puttu.
Pothichoru packed with Ayila fry, omelet, bindi, payru, avial, papadom - yes, all in there.
Puttu reminds me of knocking on every restaurant's door in Guruvayur asking for puttu kadala curry.
My friend and I set out for breakfast a little past the time, and all the small outlets had already run out of puttu, but we did not lose hope and knocked on every door asking, "chetta puttu?" !! We had to settle for idli sambar that day. But then my wish was fulfilled at a homestay in Alleppey who made it, especially on request.
Have you heard of Chiratta puttu? That is the traditional way to make puttu using the coconut shell before the steel puttu cooker. Coconut shell is known as chiratta in Malayalam.
The innocent-looking dosa may not be as innocent-looking when in Kerala !!
Called Kallappam, the dosa batter has an addition of either tender coconut water or toddy. Yes, today, it gives this mild sweet flavour to the dose that makes it different. Along with dosa and puttu, one cannot leave out idiyappam or appam with veg stew. At home, we always have an appam with coconut milk. But Kerala introduced me to having it with veg stew, and there is no turning back.
Puttu Kadala curry and Appam
Kappa took me by surprise when I tried it. I had so many thoughts, that is it potato, and why would you add curry to potato, etc., etc... Well, technically tapioca, I meant that it is a potato family.
But Kappa and meen curry tasted so good that for the next time, I tried Kappa biriyani. I am not a fan of Kerala biriyani, and I still call it ghee rice and chicken curry !! But Kappa biriyani was different. My vote is still for Kappa Fish curry. They steam fry it and add tadka, or what do they do? I honestly don't know, and it could be just the taste of tapioca is so good. And mix in thin fish curry into it!
Heaven, okay, heaven...
Kappa Meen curry
After a nap from the meal, you have to wake up for Kerala snacks. Pazham Pori, which is the nenthra pazham bajji, is just yummy to have. The nenthra pazham, which is a variant of banana, is also steamed and tossed in ghee.
Thalassery is quite a famous restaurant and has a branch close to my home, but the favorite part is the Thalassery cafe that sells amazing snacks and chaaya !! You got to call it chaaya and chai Kadai, not as tea. Even if you are not a Malayalee, if you have lunch or dinner from Kerala mess, you have to end it with tea. Why they have this habit is a mystery to me! Back to Thalassery cafe selling snacks !!
While I walked from work, I had to pass through it, and I used to stand in front of the stall wondering what to choose from the options. Between Pazham Pori, sugiyan, pathiri, unnakaya, unniyappam so many varieties to choose from. And so pick one a day !!
Other Kerala Snacks
Pazham Pori, sugiyan, nenthra pazham sauteed, pakoda
Have you heard of Karuppu halwa (black halwa) from Kerala?
It is unique to Kerala and made from jaggery, coconut milk, and rice flour. Mildly sweet... The problem with mildly sweet beings, you cannot stop with one!! And then there is Kozhikodan halwa which is rubbery in texture filled with cashew nuts. The chewy halwa, though, sticks all-around your mouth gives this fantastic coconut oil flavour along with ghee melting through you. But the mother of it all is something else. My friend one day introduced me to Chakka Varatti. Oh, Myyy my...
My mouth is watering just thinking of it. It is made of ripe jackfruit, jaggery, and ghee. More like a preserve or jam, but I eat it like halwa. When I went to her place, I shamelessly had multiple cups of it. It is the best thing I have had and not found in shops.
Sadly, due to covid, I can't go out to have Onam Sadya, but If a Keralite sends me one, I will be all gratefully teary-eyed…
Happy Onam, Onam Shubhashayagalu :)
Onam is here and in this covid situation can't really dine out for Onam Sadya. But if you are reading this and in Kerala, send me Upperi, okay :)
Happy Onam, Onam Shubhashayagalu :)
If you are wondering where all these pics are from, I had all this during a familiarisation trip to Sterling Wayanad. What an amazing resort and yummy food :)